Draft of November 18, 2014.
“PRACTICE READY GRADUATES”: A MILLENNIALIST FANTASY Robert J. Condlin ∗ I.
The sky is falling on legal education, say the pundits, 1 and preparing “practice ready” graduates is one of the best strategies for surviving the fallout. 2 This is not a new prediction or a new recommendation for survival. It is a millennialist 3 version of the argument for clinical legal education that dominated discussion in the law schools in the 1960s and 1970s. 4 The ∗
Professor of Law, University of Maryland Carey School of Law. My grateful appreciation to Andrew BlairStanek, Maxwell Chibundu, Chris Condlin, Steve Ellmann, Don Gifford, James Grimmelmann, Michelle Harner, Alan Hornstein, Renee Hutchins, Susan Krinsky, Sue McCarty, Leslie Meltzer Henry, Frank Pasquale, Garrett Power, Bill Reynolds, Rohith Srinivas, Max Stearns, Charlie Sullivan, Greg Young, and participants in a University of Maryland Carey School of Law faculty workshop, all of whom made very helpful suggestions. 1 These pundits congregate at the so-called “scamblogs” (i.e., law school is a scam), which have popped up online over the last few years. For a representative collection, see David Lat et al., Scamblogs, ABOVE THE LAW, http://abovethelaw.com/tag/scamblogs/ (last visited Nov. 5, 2014). One might think of them as a law school version of “Doomsday Preppers” (perhaps Doomsday Preppies would be more accurate), preparing for the coming Armageddon in their own small part of the world. Not everyone is a Chicken Little, of course, some see the present turmoil as leading to a better world. See, e.g., Benjamin H. Barton, A Glass Half Full Look at the Changes in the American Legal Market, 38 INT’L REV. L. & ECON. 29, 29 (2014) (“The American legal profession finds itself in the midst of dizzying changes . . . [that] [t]he main commentators . . . have largely presented . . . as disastrous. This [e]ssay argues that . . . [the changes] will prove beneficial overall.”); id. at 30-31 (describing the benefits to society, law students, and law schools of the coming changes). 2 See, e.g., Symposium, The Way to Carnegie: Practice, Practice – Pedagogy, Social Justice, and Cost in Experiential Legal Education, 32 B.C. J. L. & SOC. JUST. 215, 221 (2012) (symposium on the effectiveness of clinical education for preparing lawyers to be “practice ready”); William D. Henderson, A Blueprint for Change, 40 PEPP. L. REV. 461, 462 (2013) (“Creating more ‘practice ready’ graduates will help some law schools more effectively place their graduates in the finite—and likely shrinking—market for traditional entry level legal jobs. Yet, this strategy cannot work for all schools”); News Release, New York State Bar Ass’n, New York State Bar Resolution Calls for “Practice Ready Lawyers,” (Aug. 9, 2011), http://www.nysba.org/CustomTemplates/Content.aspx?id=6383 (“Law schools and other legal education providers should be encouraged to develop ‘practice ready lawyers . . . .’ ”). Professor Henderson is skeptical that the “practice ready” strategy is enough to cope with the present troubles. Henderson, supra, at 501 (“ ‘Practice-Ready’ is Not Enough. Despite the rebukes often received from the practicing bar, for most law schools an emphasis on “practice-ready” skills will be insufficient to cope with the structural changes occurring within the legal industry.”) (emphasis added). 3 It is common today to identify millennialism with a date (e.g., the year 2000), a length of time (a thousand years), or a generation (those born in the 1980s), but in scholarly discourse the term refers to a system of thought based on the “belief that at some point in the future the world that we live in will be radically transformed into one of perfection—of peace, justice, fellowship and plenty.” See RICHARD LANDES, HEAVEN ON EARTH: THE VARIETIES OF THE MILLENNIAL EXPERIENCE 20 (2011) (emphasis in original). The key tropes in millennialist thinking, whether secular or religious, are “apocalyptic scenarios filled with . . . outrageous hope